ARDEO Establishes New Plan in Drug Overdose Response

August 28, 2017

Cleveland, GA - The Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office (ARDEO) has introduced a new plan in its operating area to respond to drug overdoses.  Like many other regions of the United States, North Georgia communities have been inundated in recent years with drug overdose deaths.  A large portion of these deaths have been attributed directly to heroin/fentanyl/opioid use.  In a proactive effort to stem the tide of this growing epidemic, the ARDEO Control Board unanimously agreed to a plan of action.

In the event of a drug overdose death within the ARDEO area of operation, the initial responding agency (sheriff’s office or police department) will notify and request the assistance of the ARDEO.  ARDEO Agents will respond in a support role to the requesting agency.  In most instances, the initial responding agency will lead the death investigation.  ARDEO will be on hand to lend technical expertise and any other assistance deemed helpful by the lead investigative agency. 

In partnership with the lead agency, death investigations that involve drug overdoses will be investigated as homicides.  This will require developing information which may assist in targeting the source of supply and disrupting or dismantling the entire organization.

Control board member departments will have the option of partnering with the United States Attorney’s Office to prosecute drug dealers for supplying any drugs which can be directly attributed to the death of the victim.  This is in addition to any drug violations for which the suppliers may be prosecuted.  The best legal path on the state level for an overdose with a death is felony murder but the burden of proof is high.   Currently there are no existing state laws for which the drug dealer can be held accountable for the near death of the victim in which the victim’s life was only saved through medical intervention.  The existing federal statute for which the dealer may be held responsible may be utilized in these types of cases.

Many heroin/fentanyl/opioid overdose events do not result in death.  Thanks to the quick response of first responders, hospital personnel, and the widespread use of Naloxone, some overdose events are reversed.   If it were not for the use of Naloxone and fast acting first responders, our heroin/fentanyl/opioid overdose death rate would be much higher.  With this in mind, the ARDEO Control Board has tasked the ARDEO with also responding to drug overdose events that do not result in death (cases where the victim is resuscitated).  Agents will make every effort to develop information which may assist in targeting the drug source of supply and using existing drug laws to disrupt or dismantle the entire drug trafficking organization.

In keeping with the spirit of Georgia’s 911 Medical Amnesty Law, the ARDEO Control Board wants the public to trust that those seeking to provide aid to overdose victims will not be targeted for investigation and/or prosecution.  Georgia’s 911 Medical Amnesty Law protects individuals from arrest, prosecution, and conviction of certain drug offenses if the evidence of their drug crime results from the individuals seeking medical assistance for someone thought to be suffering from a drug overdose.

It is the belief of the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Control Board that these aggressive intervention tactics will have a positive impact in greatly reducing the number of drug overdose deaths and saving lives in our area of operation. 

For additional information about Appalachian RDEO or to provide tips on criminal activity look for ARDEO@appalachiandtf on twitter or follow on facebook@appalachianrdeo and/or Instagram or contact your local Sheriff’s Office or Police Department.

The Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office is a multi-agency unit that consists of the following Sheriff’s Offices: White County, Lumpkin County, Towns County, Banks County, Habersham County, Stephens County, Rabun County, Franklin County, the Cleveland Police Department, and the Lavonia Police Departement, along with the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, the Department of Public Safety, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Mitchell Posey – Special Agent in Charge | ARDEO | (706) 348-7410